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Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany
Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany
by Lynn Seiser
03-31-2014
Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany

Breathe in, apathy
Breathe out, empathy
epiphany

People always want to take in the positive and let out the negativity. This does not seem very ecological or considerate of others. Just fills the environment with negativity until all that we breathe in is negative and all we breathe out is negative. The internal and external environment are both negative. Perhaps to be generative and transformative, se need to care about more than ourselves and be willing to take in the negative and let out the positive. That's very Aikido-ish: we enter and blend with a violent attack and redirect the energy to a positive non-violent conclusion.
Apathy: (1) a lack of enthusiasm or energy, (2) emotional emptiness, (3) indifference, lethargy, laziness, boredom, (4) a lack of concern or interest
In one of Al Pacino's early movies (And Justice for All), he plays an attorney. When he cannot make a hearing, he asks a colleague to file a motion of extenuating circumstance so the client will not have to go to jail. The colleague does not, the client goes to jail, and kills himself overnight. When confronted in a parking structure, Pacino is screaming (as only Pacino can), "Don't you care? Don't you care? Don't you care?" His colleague calmly looks at him and says, "No, I don't care."

In the dojo, we all have our priorities about what we want to learn and how we want to learn it. I often read and hear about students who are unhappy with their teachers and the dojo syllabus because they don't care to learn what is being taught, they only care to learn what they want to learn, in the sequence they want to learn it, and in the way they want it presented. This is how most of us walk in the door. We want what we want when we want it. It is all about us. The only thing we care about is us. Even if what we are being offered is of more long-term value and worth, way beyond our immediate desire. Many people, who want to study a martial art don't initially care about what the opportunity offers. They don't care to learn self-discipline and self-transformation; they only want to learn self-defense.

In our lives, we often hold on to the pain of being on the receiving end of uncaring people. They were so ego-centric and self-referencing that they thought life was all about them and we of course believed it was all about us. To protect ourselves, we try to care less. In caring less, we actually become more separate, more isolated, and more hurt. While many of us do take the protective position of not-caring, it appears to be a pain and fear based position which never allows us to heal that which has made us numb. The price we pay for not caring is by far greater than any price we would pay for caring.
Empathy: (1) understanding another's feeling, (2) the ability to identify with somebody else's difficulties, (3) to be responsive with compassion (4) the ability to imagine what it is like to be them
They (whoever they are -- actually it's a small group of my old friends in a bar just north of Detroit) say that we should not judge another person until we have walked a mile of their journey. Once we have walked a mile of their journey, we would not judge. We would have developed empathy. We all know suffering. We can all empathize with each other. We are not alone. We are not the only one in pain.

In the dojo, we all struggle to learn this art called Aikido. It's the hardest martial art to learn to do well. We not only have to learn to move differently but to actually think and feel differently. We do not do Aikido alone, we do it together. It is not a you bash me and I bash back art. It is not an I against you. It is about you and I becoming a we and moving towards a non-violent mutually-beneficial conclusion because you care about what happens. We fill our interactions and practice with adrenaline. In fact the more we treat Aikido like a martial art (not really caring about the damage we do) the less effective as a martial art it becomes. The more we care and the softer we become, the more effective we are in overcoming the situation.

In our lives, it is much the same. The less we care the worse our lives become and the more we care the better they become. We hear a lot about self-care and self-love these days. Yet, we also hear a lot about anxiety and depression, not to mention that existential angst of feeling and believing we are all alone. Working with clients in counseling, the most heard word is "I" and the most common complaint is that others don't understand me. Perhaps we all want to be heard, but no one is really listening. Parents talk at their children and not really with them. Couples feel like two individuals living together. We don't feel anyone cares about us and they feel the same. While many of us do not want to be taken care of, we all want to be cared about. To have someone empathize with us, perhaps we need to empathize with them too (even first).
Epiphany: (1) a sudden realization and understanding of importance, (2) the manifestation of the divine
I tend not to get things too fast. I am a bit of a slow learner with no real natural abilities. I was blessed with a life of recessive genes. It doesn't mean I cannot get it, it just means I have to work at it. I am the tortoise, not the hare. But when I get it, my life changes and I get to keep it.

I used to read a lot of Allan Watts. I don't read him as much anymore because since his death he has not produced anything really new. But when he was alive, we would lecture with a cigar in one hand and a brandy snifter in the other. He had a contagious smile and laughter. It is like there was some practical joke we were all playing on ourselves and he was just waiting for that moment that the punch line came and we all got it. We all know how much fun that anticipation can be.

In Zen there is a tradition of trying to solve a koan (a non-logical un-answerable question). At first they just seem stupid and a waste of time, so why care or bother. Next it becomes a discipline and obsession to bring our minds back to the koan and search for that illusive intellectual logical answer that will prove we know something/anything. If we hold the discipline long enough, instead of finding the answer, we drop the question, and found that we have always known the answer in the stillness and quiet of our everyday lives shared with each other.

As a counselor, one of my deepest most profound epiphanies was that on some level we all already know the truth and the right thing to do. As a Buddhist, I tend to believe less in the myth of self and more in the miracle of clarity, empathy, compassion, and courage; caring.

Perhaps the real epiphany is that the more we intelligently care about others, the more people will intelligently care about us. Together we can work towards a more caring future.

Breath in, apathy
Breathe out, empathy
epiphany

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation and Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and his martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.
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Old 04-01-2014, 09:16 AM   #2
Andy Kazama
 
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Re: Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany

Very nice as always, Sensei!! Thank you for sharing!

Aikido South
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The basic fundamentals, refined to perfection, are your most advanced techniques.
-Bill Koll (1923-2003)
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Old 04-01-2014, 05:36 PM   #3
SeiserL
 
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Re: Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany

Quote:
Andy Kazama wrote: View Post
Very nice as always, Sensei!! Thank you for sharing!
Always welcome.
IMHO, it is about sharing, not instructing.
Few people appreciate that opening the body requires opening the mind and heart (shin).
Thanks for reading and commenting.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 04-03-2014, 07:04 AM   #4
Derek
 
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Re: Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany

I am humbled as always my brother.

I have always felt that Aikido was a journey of epiphany. Early on we are delighted with every new discovery and eager for the next one. As time passes, I still find the delight and am eager for the next epiphany, they just become smaller and further apart!

Derek Duval
Yondan
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Old 04-03-2014, 09:01 AM   #5
lbb
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Re: Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany

The trick is to not be addicted to epiphany. Like any of the special states of being, it's a rare thing and can't be forced or chased or clung to, only welcomed if and when it comes, and allowed to depart in its time. No way to cling to the feeling of specialness, no way to guarantee that another epiphany will come tomorrow, or next year, or ever. That's what we have to be at peace with, to follow any way.
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Old 04-03-2014, 06:08 PM   #6
SeiserL
 
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Re: Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany

Quote:
Derek Duval wrote: View Post
I have always felt that Aikido was a journey of epiphany. Early on we are delighted with every new discovery and eager for the next one. As time passes, I still find the delight and am eager for the next epiphany, they just become smaller and further apart!
Yes agreed.
It is amazing that there is always something more and some great people to share it with.
I will always be humbly grateful for that.
See you on the mat.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 04-03-2014, 06:10 PM   #7
SeiserL
 
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Re: Apathy, Empathy, Epiphany

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
The trick is to not be addicted to epiphany. Like any of the special states of being, it's a rare thing and can't be forced or chased or clung to, only welcomed if and when it comes, and allowed to depart in its time. No way to cling to the feeling of specialness, no way to guarantee that another epiphany will come tomorrow, or next year, or ever. That's what we have to be at peace with, to follow any way.
Yes agreed.
Perhaps that is one of the things abut Aikido I love the most, we have to let the techniques happen just like we have to let ourselves care and let ourselves have an open mind and heart.
None of it can be forced.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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